By David Blyweiss, M.D.
If you’re planning to ring in 2011 with a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage, you might be wondering about those highly touted claims that alcohol is good for you.
Here’s the good news: Alcohol can make your heart stronger and may even boost your memory. In fact, occasional drinkers have fewer heart attacks and strokes than either folks who don’t drink at all or those who drink heavily.1 That’s because a little alcohol can raise levels of good HDL cholesterol and can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by helping prevent blood clots in the arteries. Some forms of alcohol, especially red wine, also contain compounds that can lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
But Dr. B, I don’t like red wine!
No worries! It turns out that moderate drinking, whether its wine, beer or even a martini, can lower your risk of Type II diabetes and heart disease.2 And there’s new evidence that links light to moderate drinking with a reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in people over the age of 55.3
But, while a little alcohol can be a good thing, too much can be hazardous to your health. Drinking a few too many on a regular basis can boost your risk for breast, colon and uterine cancer. Overindulging also increases your risk of osteoporosis.4
Here are my guidelines for healthy drinking: 2 drinks per day for men, 1 drink per day for women. Examples of one drink include:
- Beer: 12 ounces
- Wine: 5 ounces
- 80-proof distilled spirits: 1.5 ounces
Of course, if you’re celebrating, it’s not uncommon to exceed this amount. On those rare occasions when you indulge in more than a couple of drinks, make sure you rehydrate with plenty of purified water. Alcohol causes a rapid loss of water within just a few hours thanks to the secretion of an anti-diuretic hormone. To counteract this effect, drink at least 8 oz. of water between each alcoholic beverage.
Alcohol can rob you of magnesium, the B vitamins, and other important nutrients so, if you do overindulge, take a multivitamin supplement as soon as possible to replace lost nutrients.
Finally, if you’re watching your weight, you should also watch what you drink. While a beer will only set you back 150 calories and five ounces of white wine is a mere 100 calories, mixed cocktails can contain the same number of calories as an entire meal. For instance, the average margarita is 327 calories, an Amaretto sour is 421calories and a mudslide is a whopping 820 calories!
Whether you celebrate with a toast or not is a personal choice. But as long as you keep moderation in mind, drinking to 2011 can be part of a healthy New Year.
- Ruidavets JB. Patterns of alcohol consumption and ischaemic heart disease in culturally divergent countries: the Prospective Epidemiological Study of Myocardial Infarction (PRIME). British Journal of Medicine. 2010;341: c6077.
- Sato KK. Relationship between drinking patterns and the risk of type 2 diabetes: the Kansai Healthcare Study. Journal of Epidemiological and Community Health. 2010 Dec 3. [Epub ahead of print]
- Arntzen KA. Moderate wine consumption is associated with better cognitive test results: a 7 year follow up of 5033 subjects in the Tromsø Study. Acta Neurol Scand Suppl. 2010;190:23-29.
- Matsui T. Effect of a comprehensive lifestyle modification program on the bone density of male heavy drinkers. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research. 2010;34:869-875